The staff at the Universal Life Church Monastery happens to be a microcosm of the diversity found in this country. Being as the church respects people of all faiths and backgrounds and allows them to be ordained, it is no surprise that people of different walks of life have decided dedicate their time and talents to the cause of the Monastery. This was perhaps most poignantly expressed when our latest staff member, Ali, became a legal citizen and obtained his passport, and took state officials to task on their assumptions that people of different faiths don’t work well together. We’d like to introduce you to our senior staff and tell you a bit about ourselves to offer a backdrop over which the story of Ali can be told, and to assert the cause and outlook of the interfaith minister.
Our Chaplain, Br. Martin, was raised Christian and carries many of those beliefs with him to this day. The love and compassion of Jesus Christ as described in the Bible always appealed to him. Br. Martin is a black American and lived through the civil rights movement, and we can see how being confronted with the worst in some people has informed his spiritual views in that he now presides over a church that champions equality as well as the rights of free speech and religion. Today, Br. Martin seeks spiritual truths by many routes and posits that humans have been endowed with reason to arrive at moral and legal systems on their own. He chose to be ordained and spread his vision of a church comprised of interfaith ministers, sharing views, discussing the big questions in life, as well as presiding over ceremonies like performing a wedding or a funeral.
Br. James is in charge of the department that fulfills orders for documentation, apparel, books, etc. He is a practicing Lutheran and of European heritage. He is not nearly as seasoned as the chaplain, and thus he is from a generation that seems to be putting less emphasis on religion as a divider, so his work at an interfaith church isn’t a surprise. The same could be said of Br. Simon, whom you may know if you’ve spent any time on our Ministers’ Network. Br. Simon currently counts himself as agnostic despite his Methodist upbringing, something he shares in common with our customer service representative and one of the writers, Br. Joseph. Br. Joseph is an Alaskan Native and wanted to be ordained to perform a wedding as a minister. He has a lot of experience with weddings, offering his services on the piano for many friends and family, and now as a wedding officiant, he can offer something else entirely. Sister Avery also wanted to be ordained to become a wedding officiant. She is Buddhist and of Spanish heritage. She recently made a pilgrimage to Spain to see where her family came from before immigrating to the United States. Our office manager, Vernon, is both gay and a Mormon. He hails from Idaho and Utah and was drawn to the church by our views on equal rights.
With senior staff members that are black, native, white, gay, straight, male, female, Christian, Buddhist, atheist, Mormon, and agnostic, the Universal Life Church Monastery is truly a diverse institution not only in membership, but in leadership. When we set out to find a new web developer, Ali seemed like the perfect choice. Besides being greatly qualified to oversee the websites, Ali is a Muslim and grew up in Pakistan. With a little help studying for the naturalization test from other senior staff members, Br. Ali became an American citizen and obtained his passport. During the process, state officials questioned whether or not someone of Muslim faith could work well in an interfaith church comprised of so many different kinds of people. Taken aback but without missing a beat, Ali responded by saying “we are all children of the same universe.” This situation speaks volumes to the goal and vision of the ULC Monastery. It shows that in the minds of many, it is an uphill battle – that worldly factors will always present a challenge and individuals will fight against it, but people of all faiths and backgrounds can work together, be ordained, and champion compassion and religious freedom. When we leave the office, we each have our own lives and our own beliefs, but every morning we come together to further our cause where both the route and the destination are people working together for the common good.